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Matt Calkins: The key to Chris Petersen’s recruiting success at UW is hidden in Huskies’ number of scholarship offers

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 20, 2018

Defensive back Byron Murphy, with Washington coach Chris Petersen, left, after Utah defeated Washington 10-3 in the Pac-12 Conference championship game on Nov. 30, 2018  in Santa Clara, Calif., announced Monday he’s declaring for the NFL Draft. (Tony Avelar / AP)
Defensive back Byron Murphy, with Washington coach Chris Petersen, left, after Utah defeated Washington 10-3 in the Pac-12 Conference championship game on Nov. 30, 2018 in Santa Clara, Calif., announced Monday he’s declaring for the NFL Draft. (Tony Avelar / AP)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – If you’re looking for a stock tip, I have just the one. It trades as CPRC, short for Chris Petersen Recruiting Classes.

Somehow, CPRC seems to go up every year. Given Petersen and his staff’s approach to the recruiting process, it doesn’t seem to be in danger of crashing.

When Petersen took over at Washington before the 2014 season, he had the No. 38 composite recruiting class in the country (the combined rankings from ESPN, Rivals and 24/7 Sports). That class had also had four four-star recruits.

Two years later, he had the 29th-best class with seven four-star recruits. In 2017, it was the 22nd-best class with nine four-stars. Last year, it was 16th with 10 four stars. As of Wednesday, he had the 15th-best class for the 2019 season with 12 four-star guys.

Petersen, of course, will tell you that the rankings are meaningless. His Boise State teams never had a class that cracked the top 50 but consistently finished seasons in the AP’s top 10.

Still, it’s hard to argue that the raw talent UW is attracting isn’t getting better and better. Given what the coaching staff has done with previous classes, that has to be a daunting thing for the Pac-12.

After the Huskies beat Utah in the conference title game last month, safety Taylor Rapp proudly noted how he has been to either a New Year’s Six bowl or College Football Playoff game in all three of his years at Washington. Rapp, like any of the Huskies’ upperclassmen, wasn’t part of those top-20 recruiting classes.

Any NASCAR crew chief will tell you that the better your equipment, the faster your car. The Huskies seem to get parts upgrades every signing day.

But how are Petersen-coached teams able to outperform their recruiting rankings so consistently? Are he and his staff that much smarter than everyone else when it comes to film breakdown or preparation? Or are they exposing a flawed ranking system? Could be a little bit of both. But above all, I think it’s about fit.

As of Wednesday, there were 20 players who had signed with Washington for the 2019 season. But what’s nuts is the Huskies only offered 91 scholarships, which was the third lowest among Power 5 schools.

The average number of offers was 232. Tennessee made 440, five other schools made more than 400, and Oregon led the Pac-12 with 335.

For many programs, the idea is to throw any offer out there and see if it generates enthusiasm among players. If it does, the real courting process begins.

But the Huskies don’t do that. They seem to get to know their potential recruits as well as possible before making anything official.

Petersen takes pride in that. It’s the ultimate ode to his “OKG” (our kind of guy) outlook.

That’s why he was pleased to find out that only UCLA and Stanford had made fewer scholarship offers among Power 5 schools.

“I’m fired up again,” Petersen said. “We were bottom three.”

Of course, there are elements to the recruiting process upon which Petersen looks less favorably. He talked about the “vultures” that swoop in and turn recruits the night before signing day, which adds suspense that was nonexistent to him previously.

This could be happening with four-star safety Asa Turner, who was expected to ink his letter of intent Wednesday but hit the brakes during the signing ceremony at his high school. He still could end up being at Washington, but the fact that this type of drama is so rare among Huskies speaks to Petersen’s approach.

In less than two weeks, the Huskies will take on Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. It will mark the first time Washington has been in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day in 18 years.

Wednesday, Petersen was asked about preparing for such a game after landing another whale of a class.

“Doesn’t get much better than that,” he said.

I don’t know, with Huskies football, it always seems to be getting better.

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